Mobeen Hussain
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Black, beautiful and essentially British
African Caribbean women, belonging and the creation of Black British beauty spaces in Britain (c. 1948– 1990)
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This chapter explores the creation of Black British beauty spaces for and by African-Caribbean women in postwar Britain between 1948 and 1990 by scrutinising physical spaces and the literary narratives that represented them – previously overlooked in discussions about postwar migration and multiculturalism. In doing so, it considers how negotiations of beauty, often multilayered and divisive, became resources for fashioning Black British identities. African-Caribbean women mediated Eurocentric beauty ideals, using elements of both conformity and subversion, to create innovative beauty spaces. As part of wider anti-racist community building, quotidian beauty consumption played a formative role in nurturing spaces of belonging for African-Caribbean women in Britain. Configurations of hair and skin colour were navigated in salons, Black businesses, beauty contests, and media outputs. I interdiscursively read visual and textual outputs in two pioneering Black-owned newspapers, The West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean news (1958–1964) and The Voice (f.1982), alongside the early novels of Andrea Levy. This interdisciplinary approach, supplemented by anecdotal evidence and testimonies from The Heart of the Race (1985), accentuate the importance of Black beauty discourse in identity formation in modern Britain.

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British culture after empire

Race, decolonisation and migration since 1945